Archive for the ‘news’ Category

So Blessed

Sunday, September 26th, 2010


Today we were shocked and deeply saddened to read in the Mercury News that Jonne Aleeson, owner of Calvin’s Philly Cheese Steaks on The Alameda, died at home of an apparent heart attack one week ago, September 19, 2010. “Mr. Calvin” as he is affectionately known was 67.

I’ve written often of Calvin’s because our family has eaten often at Calvin’s. It’s a special place to us because the sandwiches are amazing and we always looked forward to seeing and catching up with Mr. Calvin. He effused Love. I’m not finding the words right now so I’ll re-use what I wrote in July when I learned Calvin’s had suffered a fire:

Readers of this blog will surely know that we love Calvin’s. The sandwiches are second-to-none, but what makes the place so very special to us is Mr. Aleeson. We’ve been privileged to spend some time with him in his restaurant and get to know him and watch him interact with the community. He’s a remarkable guy, warm and generous. He’s also tough—not with people, but with life. Even before this fire he has endured challenges and trials that should not be asked of anyone, but his faith in God and the love of his family and friends have brought him through. In heartfelt moments he openly shares how Blessed he considers himself to be, and listening to him teaches me what Blessed truly means.

Mr. Aleeson will be missed, and The Alameda and El Camino Real have lost a giant. Calvin’s will go on and every sandwich served to a satisfied customer will be a tribute to his memory.

Jonne Aleeson

August 31, 1943 – September 19, 2010

[A statement on]

Dear Family & Friends,

On September 19, 2010 Calvin went home to be with the Lord.

Services are being held on Monday September 27, 2010.

Maranatha Christian Center
1811 S. 7th Street, San Jose, CA.

The viewing is from 9:30 am to 10:30 am. The services will begin at 10:30 am to 12:30 pm
The Celebration of life is to follow at Calvins’s Cheese steaks restaurant at 1699 San Carlos Ave. at 1:00 pm

In lieu of flowers, monetary donations are being accepted at Bank of America account #0157171276

For additional information please call 408-286-5626

The Family of Calvin

You Haul

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

[Photo from SVBC]

I love this story. Over Labor Day weekend the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition packed up and moved their office from Willow Glen to a new location at 1922 The Alameda, San Jose. The SVBC advocates for cycling as an everyday transportation solution that’s good for the environment and healthy for the participants so naturally they accomplished this big move completely by bicycle.

Travoy with BikeThey enlisted a team of over 20 volunteers, each with a trailer or some kind of load-carrying contrivance attached to a bicycle, and hauled everything. Computers, furniture, files…everything. They formed a ragtag caravan as they made the three mile trek. After they unloaded the bikes and carried everything to their new fourth floor office on my favorite stretch of El Camino Real, one of the volunteers won a new Burley Travoy trailer in a drawing.

IMG_9395I was immediately reminded of the 2010 Fourth of July Rose, White, & Blue Parade on The Alameda. The Cleveland Avenue neighborhood association entered a green-themed float entirely powered by bicycles. Carbon footprint: zero (assuming the huffing and puffing of the pedalers was too small to measure). It won first prize. The Bicycle Coalition move may not be quite as impressive a feat as the Murphy Party dragging covered wagons over the Sierra Nevada in 1844, but given the easier alternatives the SVBC could have chosen, their dedication to their cause is admirable as is the consistency of their message.

[Update] The SVBC is holding an open house at their new location. Come chat with other cyclists and enjoy some refreshments.

SVBC open (office) house

September 16, 2010 – 4:30pm – 6:30pm
United Way Building
1922 The Alameda Suite 420
San Jose, California

Mission Heights

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicI was hanging out at home Monday enjoying Labor Day with my family when my twitter feed was blown up by news accounts of someone scaling a building in San Francisco. His name is Dan Goodwin but he’s alternately known as SpiderDan and Skyscraperman, and he climbs up the outside of tall buildings without ropes or nets. Monday, September 6, 2010 he conquered with only suction cups and a red suit the 60-story Millennium Tower at 301 Mission Street in the SoMa District. (Oddly enough I was just there the previous Friday; it’s precisely where I caught the MUNI 14 bus for my bus trip down El Camino Real.) At the top he unfurled an American flag before being arrested by police and charged with trespassing and being a nuisance.

Why did he do it? He says it is to call attention to the dangers of building towers too tall for rescue crews to reach. He also wants to show their vulnerability to terrorist attack. His publicist says he is generating publicity for his book, Skyscraperman. Some have suggested that as a cancer survivor he is making the most of every moment of precious life. My take is that he was drawn to climb the Millennium Tower by a confluence of synchronistic circumstances connecting back to events in his life beginning in the year 2000—the new millennium—culminating in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, a building he had climbed in 1983. I can relate. Symbols have power that can move people to do startling things.

The whole saga Monday lasted three hours during which emergency crews closed off Mission Street, rerouted MUNI, and generally disrupted life on San Francisco’s branch of El Camino. Local news stations webcasted live video feeds online. The Bay Area twitterverse was abuzz. On a slow news holiday, SpiderDan had our attention.

SpiderIn related news, our house was invaded by spiders that same weekend. Once or twice a day we’d find one of those big fat hairy suckers inconveniently ascending a wall above where we were trying to eat, sleep, or…um…think.  A local insect control expert (me) was kept busy capturing and evicting these unwanted creepy crawlers.

Why did they do it? Perhaps it was a show of solidarity with the events in San Francisco. Perhaps SpiderDan is a closet supervillain with the power to psychically communicate with and control hordes of arachnids. “Climb, my beauties! Climb!” Perhaps it’s just the time of year when spiders come out to look for food, water, or some other instinctive necessity.

Whatever the reason, my spider sense is tingling now so I can’t sit in a room without obsessively looking over my shoulder every five minutes. And the next time I go downtown, I suspect I’ll have my eyes pointed upwards, scanning for crusaders tilting at skyscrapers.

[Source: SFist via California Beat]

Math Olympians

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

CIMG0897Eight young American women kicked butt in the 2010 China Girls Mathematical Olympiad held August 9 – 13 in Shijiazhuang, about 100 miles from Beijing. They brought home to the USA five gold medals, one silver medal, one bronze medal, and one honorable mention. Four of the girls are from California, three from right here in Silicon Valley. One of the gold medalists, Lynnelle Ye, proudly represents El Camino Real; she just graduated from Palo Alto High School, she’s been taking advanced math courses at Stanford University since her junior year, and she’ll be attending The Farm in the Fall.

The China Girls Mathematical Olympiad is an international event where young women attempt to solve six math problems in nine hours split over two days. No calculus is required but the problems are…challenging. Here are a couple samples I found from a similar competition.

  1. Prove that for each positive integer n, there are pairwise relatively prime integers k0, k1, …, kn, all strictly greater than 1, such that k0k1kn – 1 is the product of two consecutive integers.
  2. At a certain mathematical conference, every pair of mathematicians are either friends or strangers. At mealtime, every participant eats in one of two large dining rooms. Each mathematician insists upon eating in a room which contains an even number of his or her friends. Prove that the number of ways that the mathematicians may be split between the two rooms is a power of two (i.e., is of the form 2k for some positive integer k).

Ironically as you see the competitors are given the answers; they have to provide the proofs. It’s  the mathematical equivalent of essay  questions.

Palo Alto’s Lynnelle Ye as it turns out is a bit of a superstar, having placed fourth in the Intel Science Talent Search and second in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. Don’t let their math prowess mislead you. From the blog postings they put up on the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute page, it’s clear they are well-balanced, bright teenagers who made the most of the extraordinary adventure they had touring China. Some excerpts:

“I’m the romantic fluffy type who wants to talk about the scenery, because Hong Kong is the coolest place on Earth. So cool that I even bought a few refrigerator magnets. I think I’m going to build my castle here when I grow up.”

“Yesterday, we went to Ocean Park for most of the day. It was awesome! We got to see a lot of animals, including giant pandas, red pandas, sea otters, chinese alligators/crocodiles, dolphins, and sea lions. My favorites were by far the giant pandas. They were so cute! (I wish that I could hug them 🙂 ).”

“So, today’s classes were lots of fun. First we had Polynomials with Po-Ru, where I got to brush up on interpolation. Then we did awesomely awesome constructions problems with Ian. Finally, in the afternoon, Carlos showed us some really cool angle-chasing problems. In fact, one of them is now my new favorite math problem!”

Congratulations to these exceptional young ladies! They’ve got math skillz, and they’ll go far.

MSRI 2010 Olympiad

[Source: San Jose Mercury News]


Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Patricia Loomis
When I met Bill Wulf at the Rose, White, and Blue Parade on the Fourth of July, we got to talking about other local historians like Clyde Arbuckle and Ralph Rambo, both of whom he personally knew. He told me I needed to check out the work of Patricia Loomis. I was familiar with her name but had never seen any of her books. I looked her up in the San Jose Library catalog and saw that they had copies but they could not be checked out because they were signed by the author and had to stay in the King Library’s California Room.

Not long after, I was refreshing my Google bookshelf and remembered to add Pat’s books to the list. On a lark I Googled her to see what else I could find out about her and was sadly shaken to find she had passed away only a week prior. On a bittersweet note, just a few weeks before that she had celebrated her 90th birthday with a big party at San Jose Historic Park. Here’s a timeline that shows how these events all converged inside the span of 30 days.

  • 6/30/2010 — Pat celebrates her 90th Birthday at San Jose History Park
  • 7/4/2010 — Bill Wulf tells me to check out Pat’s books
  • 7/4/2010 — Paulette and I watch fireworks at San Jose History Park
  • 7/20/2010 — Pat passes away in Arroyo Grande, her hometown
  • 7/27/2010 — A memorial service is held at the South County Historical Society Heritage  House
  • 7/29/2010 — I learn all this when I randomly Google her

Pat was born in San Francisco in 1920 and grew up in Arroyo Grande near Pismo Beach. She came to San Jose to attend San Jose State University and stayed for over 60 years. She took a job at the Mercury News as a reporter but most famously between 1971 and 1981 she wrote a weekly column called “Signposts” in which she presented the history of the streets of Santa Clara County and the pioneers they were named after. That’s right, a history of the streets. This is why Bill Wulf turned me on to her. Select columns were published in two volumes called Signposts and Signposts II by the San Jose Historical Museum, the same group that runs History Park.

Last week I was up in Menlo Park and discovered a wonderfully funky used bookstore on El Camino called Feldman’s Books. I went inside and made a bee’s line to the California history section to see if maybe, just maybe they had one of Pat’s books. Eureka!


CIMG1362Signposts II is a delightful book. The table of contents reads like a South Bay atlas: Bascom Avenue, Lawrence Expessway, Montague Expressway, and more. The very first article, Abel Road in Milpitas, mentions Oakland Road and Main Street which pass by Henry Abel’s old cow pasture. I had been wondering about  Abel since it has superceded Main Street in the modern era, and now I know all about it. I learned that Henry Abel’s granddaughter Mrs. John Donovan developed Serra Shopping Center in Milpitas, a kitschy tribute to Padre Junípero. Each page is deeply researched, vibrantly narrated, and illustrated with vintage photographs. I’ll treasure it.

She wrote another seminal history book called Milpitas: a Century of Little Cornfields, 1852-1952. It’s featured in the Milpitas Historical Society’s permanent display at the Great Mall.

Pat stayed active. After retiring to Arroyo Grande she wrote two more books: Streets of Arroyo Grande and Arroyo Grande Cemetery, which incidentally is located on El Camino Real down there. Clearly she was a girl after my own heart.


Friday, August 13th, 2010

El Palo Alto, the giant redwood that gave the city its name, has been tagged by graffiti vandals. I am disgusted. This is so wrong on so many levels I hardly know where to begin.

Stanford University SealThis towering redwood stands over the bank of San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto near the county line. It’s over 1,000 years old. According to lore it’s where Don Gaspar de Portolá and his expedition camped in 1769 after having discovered San Francisco Bay. It was said to be the tallest tree for miles around so it’s always been a landmark, a defining feature of the region. It dominates the seal of Stanford University and leads the band out onto the field at football games. (If that makes no sense to you, just Google it.) El Camino Real lays beside this majestic tree, humanity’s parade paying tribute as it marches by.

I suppose I shouldn’t judge, but it’s deeply disappointing that someone could deface a historic landmark like that. The police are investigating but I suppose the perpetrator may never be caught. At least we have philosophy. The tree has withstood a lot in the last millennium. It used to have a double trunk; one was lost in a violent storm. Pollution from the nearby Southern Pacific railroad nearly poisoned it, but still it stands. The senseless graffiti will fade as will the vandal who put it there, but what El Palo Alto teaches us is that goodwill always endures.


[Source: Palo Alto Online]

Anna, Bella

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Anna Eshoo

The Hill magazine has named Congresswoman Anna Eshoo one of the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill for 2010. The California Democrat and Atherton resident represents the 14th Congressional District on the Peninsula which covers a stretch of El Camino Real from Sunnyvale to Belmont, mysteriously omitting San Carlos (District 12). District maps…go figure. At 67 she is the oldest hottie on the list. She beat out her fellow Bay Area El Camino representatives Jerry McNerney (D-CA11), Michael Honda (D-CA15), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA16), and Jackie Speier (D-CA12).


The magazine write-up notes her “Sophia Loren-esque” look and how she enjoys soul-restoring walks along the Pacific Coast. She’d better enjoy it; she represents the entire coastline between (not including) Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz! I’m a little disappointed she didn’t mention the romantic car washes or Nachos Bellgrande to be had along El Camino, but I assume it’s because she wants to keep them our little secret, California’s last unspoiled wonder.

Click here to see the entire slide show at


Bump in the Road

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

I’m shocked and dismayed to report that Calvin’s Cheesesteaks on The Alameda had a fire last week and is now closed with “significant fire, smoke, and water damage.” The fire was caused by a problem in an ice machine on July 11. The restaurant was not open at the time and there were no injuries.

Distressingly the Mercury News reports that the traumatic stress of the fire caused the owner, Jonne Aleeson, to be briefly hospitalized. I have no updates but I trust he is recovering swiftly.

You’ll recall my wife and I were last at Calvin’s on the Fourth of July. We hadn’t heard about the fire but on July 17 we happened to drive by and noticed some of Calvin’s things out on the sidewalk but thought nothing of it. Oddly enough on July 19 my wife took some co-workers there for lunch and that’s when she learned of the fire. I say “oddly enough” because that’s the day the Mercury News published its story.

As it so happens Calvin’s had been working on opening a second location nearby at 1699 San Carlos. Work continues on that and it should be completed soon. The Alameda location will re-open pending insurance and repairs. It could take a month or longer. San Carlos is a fine road, but it’s no El Camino Real.

Readers of this blog will surely know that we love Calvin’s. The sandwiches are second-to-none, but what makes the place so very special to us is Mr. Aleeson. We’ve been privileged to spend some time with him in his restaurant and get to know him and watch him interact with the community. He’s a remarkable guy, warm and generous. He’s also tough—not with people, but with life. Even before this fire he has endured challenges and trials that should not be asked of anyone, but his faith in God and the love of his family and friends have brought him through. In heartfelt moments he openly shares how Blessed he considers himself to be, and listening to him teaches me what Blessed truly means.

This fire is really unfortunate, but we can be thankful it wasn’t worse than it was. Plaster and wood can be replaced and I look forward to that happening as soon as possible. My prayers are for “Mr. Calvin” (as I call him) to recover his health and once again find the strength to carry on. We miss him, The Alameda needs him, and I envision a spectacular Grand Re-Opening where we can can all show him how much we love and appreciate him.



Friday, July 16th, 2010

W00t! The Mercury News reports that the San Jose Department of Transportation has been awarded a $3.1 million dollar grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to work on improving The Alameda! The city will begin implementing The Alameda: A Plan for “The Beautiful Way” which was developed in the series of community meetings which my friend Elena and I enjoyed participating in over the past year.

Work will begin on Phase One of the plan which calls for widening sidewalks, planting a raised median, creating safer pedestrian access, and generally beautifying and unifying the character of the “Town Center,” the southern stretch of mostly commercial buildings from Fremont Street down to the train  tracks. The goal is to enhance The Alameda’s appeal as a hip, strollable destination that showcases San Jose’s charm and history.

CIMG0164Elena and I go way back to her freshman orientation at Stanford my senior year. She recently moved to San Jose and quickly came to appreciate The Alameda, especially its casual and fine dining. At the community meetings she offered many thoughtful suggestions such as making it safer for bicyclists, and catering to families with young children the way Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen has done. Me on the other hand…well my best suggestion was to save the historic El Camino bell marker. Um, that was before I even realized there are three bells on The Alameda, not one. Gold star for trying.

This is exciting news for the community and it will be fun to watch all the planning become a Beautiful reality.

What are your favorite spots on The Alameda? What’s your opinion of controversial features like the Hester Avenue pedestrian underpass, Babe the giant muffler guy, and the Race Street billboard? Should they stay or should they go? Have you ever crossed The Alameda on foot at any of the crosswalks without traffic lights, or does your life insurance policy prohibit it?


Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

View San Jose robbery and police chase in a larger map

The Milpitas Post reports that an alleged robbery and car theft that started on Sierra Road (that’s Sierra, not Serra!) in San Jose led to a police chase that ended when the suspect was apprehended at the dead-end at Railroad Court, at the northern end of Main Street in Milpitas. That happens to be where the Milpitas Post is located, so you could say the scoop landed on their doorstep. This funny little intersection is where Main Street crosses the railroad tracks, near Judge Weller‘s dairy farm. It used to connect with Milpitas Blvd and continue on to Mission San Jose and other East Bay destinations, but it was cul-de-sac’ed decades ago. If the suspect had been an avid consumer of arcane El Camino Real knowledge like myself he surely would have known this and not snared himself in the trap. Or perhaps that was exactly his problem; he was trying to flee to the mission for sanctuary and was following a really really really old map.


Hopefully no one was seriously hurt (the police had to use a stun gun), property is rightfully restored, and justice will be served.

[Source: Milpitas Post]